Home > Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(11)

Fatal Reckoning (Fatal #14)(11)
Author: Marie Force

As he threw clothes and personal items into a bag, Gonzo hoped the classification on Skip’s case had already been upgraded. He’d be surprised if that hadn’t been the first order of business for the department after learning of his death. Upon zipping the bag and hoisting it to his shoulder, he stopped just short of the doorway to realize with sudden clarity that he was thinking like his old self again for the first time in months.

His mind was clear and focused, his determination reminiscent of the way he’d been before disaster struck, and his resolve to get back on track firm. Glancing at the room he’d called home for the last week, he had to acknowledge that the treatment was working.

He would be back.

But first, he would see to his family in blue, especially his beloved friend and lieutenant.


JOE FARNSWORTH ACCOMPANIED the department’s liaison, Officer Charles, to the ten o’clock meeting to discuss Skip’s funeral. Though Celia, Tracy and Angela were surprised to see the chief, Sam was not. She knew he’d want to personally oversee every detail of the send-off for one of his oldest and dearest friends. His involvement would ensure that Skip was afforded every honor he was due.

Joe hugged and kissed each of them before taking a seat at the table and placing his hand over Celia’s. “How’re you holding up?”

“I’m lost. I don’t know what to do with myself without Skip to care for.”

“It’ll take some time to figure out what’s next. In the meantime, you let us know what we can do to help. Anything you need, you let Officer Charles here know, and it’ll be taken care of.”

“Thank you, Joe. Everyone has been so incredibly kind.”

“Skip meant a lot to our department. He won’t be forgotten.”

Leaning against the counter, Sam crossed her arms and looked down at the brown plaid linoleum floor that was original to the house.

Nick slid his arm around her waist, offering silent but steady support.

Officer Charles, a young African American woman with kind eyes and a slim, athletic build, outlined the various plans the department had made. “Tonight, there will be a candlelight vigil at nineteen hundred at the MPD headquarters building in honor of Deputy Chief Holland and the sacrifice he made on behalf of the city. At zero eight hundred tomorrow, Deputy Chief Holland will be escorted from the funeral home to City Hall, where he will lie in state for twenty-four hours. His viewing will be open to the public from zero nine hundred until eighteen hundred. After that, the family will greet personal friends and family until twenty-one hundred hours. The department will provide around-the-clock escort and security.”

Brant spoke up from his post by the door. “The Secret Service will need more detailed information about the proceedings.”

“I took the liberty of preparing an in-depth report for your needs.” Officer Charles handed the report to Brant. “Please let me know if I missed anything.”

“Thank you.” Brant seemed impressed by her thoroughness.

Sam was too. “Well done, Officer. Thank you for anticipating that request.”

“Anticipating all your needs is my job.”

Lilia slid past Brant and into the crowded kitchen. “And mine.”

“This is Lilia Van Nostrand, my chief of staff at the White House.” Sam felt slightly mortified to be introducing her White House staff to her MPD colleagues. Worlds colliding always made her uncomfortable. “She is the most ruthlessly organized human being in the universe, so put her to good use.”

Officer Charles shook hands with Lilia. “Happy to have the assistance.”

The two of them could probably overtake the government if they put their minds to it, Sam thought.

“Wednesday morning at zero eight hundred, Deputy Chief Holland will be escorted from City Hall to Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church at Third and A Street Southeast for the funeral service.” Officer Charles handed a printout to everyone in attendance. “This is the route the motorcade will take and Patrol will oversee traffic and crowd control.”

“Crowd control?” Celia asked.

“In light of the outpouring we’ve received at headquarters,” Joe said, “we believe the crowds will be massive. We’re expecting upward of ten thousand officers to attend from departments all over the country.”

“Wow.” Tracy blinked back tears. “That’s amazing.”

“At the conclusion of the service, a police escort will take him to his final resting place at the Prospect Hill Cemetery,” Officer Charles said. “An invitation-only reception for close friends, family and MPD colleagues will be hosted by the DC Police Union in the ballroom of the Hay-Adams, which has donated the space to us.”

Sam glanced at Nick, who offered a small smile. The last time they were in the ballroom of the Hay-Adams had been on their wedding day.

“We’ll need a guest list for the reception as soon as possible,” Officer Charles concluded.

“We’ll need to vet that list,” Brant said.

“I’ll get it to you as soon as I have it.” Officer Charles looked to Celia. “With your permission, the plans will be made public in a press release that’s already been prepared.”

“You’ve done a wonderful job organizing everything.” Celia seemed overwhelmed by the magnitude.

“That’s my job, ma’am, and I’m happy to help. If there’s anything you’d like to change, you need only to let me know.”

“I wouldn’t change a thing.” Celia glanced at Sam. “Does it meet with your approval?”

“Absolutely.” Sam was relieved to be consulted by her stepmother. “Go ahead and issue the release.”

Officer Charles made a note on one of the many pages on the table. “The funeral service itself will be planned by the family.”

“The pastor is coming to meet with us at two,” Tracy said.

“President and Mrs. Nelson would like to attend the service,” Lilia said, “but only if Vice President and Mrs. Cappuano would welcome their presence and only if they can do so without causing any sort of disruption.”

The crimes of the Nelsons’ son still hung heavily over the relationship between the first and second couples. Sam glanced at Nick to gauge his reaction.

“Completely up to you,” he said.

“I have no objection if no one else does,” Sam said, deferring to Celia.

“Your dad would be astounded and honored to have the president and first lady at his funeral,” Celia said.

“I’ll let them know,” Lilia said.

“If I can assist in any way,” Officer Charles said, handing business cards to each of them, “I am at your service. And again, please accept my deepest condolences on the loss of an extraordinary man.”

Celia sniffled and dabbed at raw, red eyes with a tissue. “Thank you so much for everything.”

“It is the very least we can do in light of his ultimate sacrifice.” She glanced at the chief, who nodded. “I’ll be on my way, but please call if you need anything.”

When she stood, Sam stepped forward to shake her hand. “Thank you for a job very well done, Officer.”

She shook Sam’s hand and then Nick’s. “It’s an honor, Lieutenant, Mr. Vice President.”

When she had departed, Celia said, “She’s an impressive young woman.”

“Indeed, she is,” Joe said. “I have very high hopes for her career in the department.”

Gonzo came rushing into the kitchen and walked right up to Sam to hug her. “I’m so, so sorry. I got here as fast as I could after I heard the news. Are you okay?”

“I’m okay.” She smiled at her friend and colleague, who looked more like himself than he had since before his partner’s tragic murder. “Did you bust out?”

“Just about.”

“Means a lot that you’re here.”

“I couldn’t imagine not being here.”

At the table, Joe put an arm around Celia. “Is there anything else we can do for you?”

“I can’t think of anything. Skip would be so very pleased with the show of support from the department.”

“He was one of us. He will always be one of us.”

“That meant everything to him.”

“We’ll give him a send-off fit for a king,” Joe said, his voice gruff and filled with emotion. “And we’ll remember him always.”

* * *

OVER THE NEXT two days, Sam, Nick, Scotty and the rest of the family went through the steps of public mourning, including the candlelight vigil attended by thousands outside HQ and the hours of greeting strangers and friends alike who came to pay their respects to Skip at City Hall. The outpouring of sympathy, respect and adoration for Skip and his family was so great as to be completely overwhelming.

Sam’s heart swelled with emotion at the pageantry of the MPD motorcycles that led each procession with sirens blaring and blue lights flashing. In dress uniforms of every shade of blue, thousands of law enforcement officers and honor guards from across the country—led by Chief Farnsworth and her colleagues from the MPD—marched through the city, accompanying Skip to his funeral. Along the route, the streets were lined with citizens ten-deep waving flags and applauding as the hearse went by.

Again because of Scotty and her desire to remain close to him throughout the proceedings, Sam rode with her family in the Secret Service vehicle that followed the hearse rather than marching with her MPD colleagues. In a gesture of goodwill and generosity to the family of a fellow law enforcement officer, the Secret Service provided a motorcade for the entire extended family.

Sam took it all in with a sense of pride and a surreal feeling of loss that had only begun to permeate the numbness. But it was the bagpipes outside church that broke her composure with their distinctive wail of mourning. That sound... It brought back a lifetime of memories: police events, parades and sadder times, such as Arnold’s funeral. The wound of his loss was still raw as she fought to contend with this latest blow. Aware that the eyes of the city, the country and the world were on her, Sam battled her way through the emotions, determined to do her grieving in private.

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